When Jack White and Brendan Benson’s band The Raconteurs announced their first album in 11 years, one track name immediately jumped out at us: 07. Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness) (Donovan Cover). It’s not only that White is a master of the cover song (he’s appeared on our year-end lists more than anyone else I believe), but also…Donovan?? Definitely a surprising choice, especially for a man who’s literally performed with Bob Dylan. Maybe he watched Don’t Look Back recently.
They say nostalgia works in 20-year cycles, and this year the music of 1996 has been in the media a lot. And if you believe the music blogs, it turns out 1996 was a truly groundbreaking year for every possible genre. Over at SPIN: “The 96 Best Alternative Rock Songs Of 1996.” Complex: “Best Rap Songs of 1996.” Junkee: “Ten reasons 1996 was a great year for dance music”. Loudwire: “10 Best Metal Albums of 1996.” Red Bull Music: “1996: Why it was a great year for pop”. Suck it, 1995! (Kidding; similar articles were of course written last year too.)
We’ll be honest: 1996 was not some magical, pioneering year for cover songs. It was also not a terrible year. It was just, you know, another year. There’s no overarching theorem of 1996’s cover songs that wasn’t true in ’95 or ’97. But even so, Cover Me wasn’t around in 1996, so we never made a Best Cover Songs of 1996 list (our first year-end list came in 2009, with the Kings of Convenience’s “It’s My Party” topping it, and you can catch up on all the lists here). So we decided, before the year ends and we take our look at the best covers songs this year, why not take a nostalgic rewind and do 1996 just for fun, twenty years too late.
In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
Dylan: “Turn the organ up.”
Wilson: “Hey, man, that cat’s not an organ player.”
Dylan: “Hey, now don’t tell me who’s an organ player and who’s not. Just turn the organ up.”
When Bob Dylan ordered producer Tom Wilson to bring up the organ in “Like a Rolling Stone,” it cemented the talents of a 21-year-old named Al Kooper into legend. (Kooper tells the whole story in his fantastic autobiography Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards.) Once serendipity has allowed you to put a trademark stamp on arguably the greatest rock ‘n’ roll song of all time, there’s nowhere to go but down, right?
Wrong – in fact, Kooper was just getting started.
They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
Donovan Leitch was (and to many, still is) seen as the personification of hippy flower-power music. At one point he was pegged as “Britain’s answer to Bob Dylan.” He made his name writing sunny psychedelic pop, but his efforts and ambitions have gone far beyond that. After the initial string of folk-pop hits, most of which are genuinely remarkable, he’s gone on to do a wide assortment of things, often with some pretty prestigious collaborators, suggesting that there’s more to Donovan than just his hippy-dippy songs about love.
Singer-songwriter and musician Rickie Lee Jones has spent nearly 35 years carving a unique path that has blended rock, pop, blues, R&B, and jazz. From her early success with the hit 1979 song “Chuck E’s in Love” to the 2000s where she experimented with beats, loops and spoken word, Jones is the embodiment of the evolving artist. Her latest effort, The Devil You Know is a collection of covers of classic rock tracks that read as a greatest hits list.
Last we heard from First Aid Kit, they were pepping up Fever Ray’s “When I Grow Up.” They return today with two new covers. This time, though, they bring along a new friend: Mr. Jack White III. As he so often does, White produced their new 7” for his own Third Man Records label. The Swedish folk duo covers two old-school chestnuts: “Universal Soldier” and “It Hurts Me Too.” Listen to both below.